What Does Your Logo Color Mean?

Arek Dvornechcuck
Branding Expert

I'm a strategist and designer based in New York who help brands grow by crafting distinctive brand identities, backed by strategy. Need help with your project?—Get in touch

Colour in branding

  1. The Hidden Meanings Behind Famous Logo Colors
  2. Understand the Psychology of Color in Logo Design
  3. What Does the Color of Your Logo Say About Your Brand?
  4. How To Choose a Colour Scheme For Your Logo Design
  5. The Psychology of Color in Marketing & Branding
  6. How To Find the Best Color for Your Logo
  7. What Are the Best Combinations of Colors
  8. Ideas On How To Use Colors In Branding
  9. What is the Difference Between RGB and CMYK Colors?

Choosing the best color for a company logo is about as important as choosing the right font.

The colors you use can contribute to your brand success greatly.

Yet the importance of color is often overlooked when it comes to brand identity design.

Yet, your logo is probably the first thing your customers will think of, when thinking of your brand.

We see the color and a set of impressions comes to us.

The implications of color’s effect on people’s emotions are far reaching, and understanding your customers’ connections to certain colors could increase the effectiveness of your company’s branding methods.

The Hidden Meanings Behind Famous Logo Colors

Have a look at some of the well-known brands and how what colors they use in branding:

Famous Brands - colors in branding
Famous Logos—Colors

As you can see on the image above, brand use different colors:

  • Green color logos: Animal Planet, BP,
  • Yellow color logos: Nikon, McDonald's
  • Red color logos: Shell, H&M.
  • Pink color logos: Lift, Barbie.
  • Purple color logos: Yahoo, Cadbury.
  • Blue color logos: Flickr, Dell, Ford, Twitter.

A client may arbitrarily demand a specific color or reject another based on outwardly irrelevant reasons.

And this happened to me many times working as a graphic designer.

What are the best logo colors?

The way I deal with it - is to educate my clients on the importance of colors, cultural associations and other factors that will make the selected colors work for the brand or not.

And since the identity design is about what works - any personal preferences will not prevail.

After all, is about your audience, not you.

It's about the associations they make - how they they do it.

How they remember your company, product or service - that's what counts.

Therefore choosing the right color for your brand is NOT like choosing the paint color for your kitchen.

But before we talk about color in detail - it's important to understand the sequence of cognition.

Understand the Psychology of Color in Logo Design

Understanding the sequence of visual perception and cognition provides valuable insight into what will work best when it comes to the process of logo design.

Color is registered by our brain before either images or typography.

A single image delivers a lot of information in a very short time because we perceive an image all at once, whereas reading or hearing often takes significantly longer to process the same information.

As you can see in the image below - color comes second just after shape.

Cognition sequence in branding
The sequence of cognition.

How can I actually use it?

This simply means that the brain acknowledges and remembers shapes first, color is second and content comes last as it takes more time to process language.

Therefore color is even more important than the content when it comes to your logo design.

The science behind color could increase the effectiveness of your company’s branding and marketing methods.

So let's briefly examine some of the colors and what they stand for.

What Does the Color of Your Logo Say About Your Brand?

Color is an important consideration in your brand identity system.

Colors have a significant impact on people’s emotional state.

Color can trigger an emotion and evoke a brand association.

Color in branding is also important because our response to a color is based on our life experiences and cultural associations.

And the color meaning can change from culture to culture.

Look a the image below, where I explain on the meaning of colors.

Meaning of Colors
The meaning of colors.

Why does this matter?

This means that the chosen colour palette needs to be appropriate - evoke certain emotions, but also distinctive - differentiate your brand from competition.

So, what's the best color for business?

Perhaps the best possible scenario is to "own" a color in your category.

However, it's increasingly hard to truly own a color in your business' industry. It requires enormous amount of money spent on marketing.

How To Choose a Colour Scheme For Your Logo Design

Some of the big brands seems to got it right - just have a look at these images showing products in a brand's color, but without the logo itself.

Brands like Tiffany, Coca-Cola or UPS - their own colors in their category.

These brands trademarked their core brand colors and we recognize them to the point that just by seeing  a turquoise box, even without the logo - we now it's Tiffany.

Tiffany brand color
Tiffany brand color.

A recent study found that images of brands trigger religious reactions. (Source)

Dr. Gemma Calvert discovered that when people viewed images associated with the strong brands— the iPod, the Harley-Davidson, the Ferrari, and others— their brains registered the exact same patterns of activity as they did when they viewed the religious images.

That's how powerful colors really are.

The Psychology of Color in Marketing & Branding

On an emotional level - how consumers feel when they look at your logo and brand assets; but also on a practical level, in terms of market standout.

Just have a look at the image below - even without the Coca-Cola logo nor it's distinctive bottle shape for you know it's Coke not Pepsi.

Coca-Cola brand color
Coca-Cola brand color.

Brands and color are inextricably linked because color offers an instantaneous method for conveying meaning and message without words.

Many of the most recognizable brands in the world rely on color as a key factor in their instant recognition.

Since you know how important your brand's color can be - let's focus on colors themselves.

How To Find the Best Color for Your Logo

Before we go into color theory, a quick reminder how to define colors:

  • Hue - it's the actual color: red, green, blue and so on.
  • Saturation - indicates the amount of grey in a color.
  • Brightness - refers to how much white (or black) is mixed in the color.

As a brand identity designer, I employ number of tools during the exploration process in order to find best color combinations.

The tools including Adobe’s colour scheme generator, Colour CC; Pantone’s Studio app, which converts photography into color swatches; and a tool called Colorable, to ensure colour combinations are in line with Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.[

Colors need to be chosen carefully, not only to build brand awareness but also to differentiate.

Choosing a color for a new identity requires a core understanding of color theory.

Understanding how color is formed and, more importantly, the relationships between different colors, can help you to use color more effectively in your designs.

Primary, secondary and tertiary colors
Color theory - primary, secondary and tertiary colors.

In order to select best colors you must have a clear vision of how the brand needs to be perceived and differentiated, and an ability to master consistency and meaning over a broad range of media.

So remember to use colors wisely when it comes to designing your brand identity.

Since colors work in groups - your brand identity needs to have some color schemes established - colour combinations that work together.

What Are the Best Combinations of Colors

The combination of colors also have a functional impact on readability, eye-strain, ability to attract attention, ability to be seen at night, etc.

This is super important in choosing colors for signing, website pages, prints ads, and other marketing media - not only your logo.

Therefore families of colors are developed to support a broad range of communications needs.

And there are two ways you can group colors:

Groups of colors
Types of color groups.

The color wheel allows us to see at a glance which colors are complementary (e.g. triadic) - on the opposite each other on the wheel or analogous - adjacent to each other on the wheel.

Families of colors are developed to support a broad range of communications needs.

Ideas On How To Use Colors In Branding

While some colors are used to unify an identity, other colors may be used functionally to clarify brand architecture, through differentiating products or business lines.

Use colors to design your brand architecture.

Families of color are developed to support a broad range of communications needs.

Color in brand architecture.
Color in brand architecture—Fedex

In Fedex's brand architecture - green communicates ground services; orange communicates the high energy and speed of air transportation.

Use your brand color consistently thorough applications.

Ensuring optimum reproduction of the brand color is an integral element of standards, and part of the challenge of unifying colors across packaging, printing, signage, and electronic media.

Have a look at the MasterCard identity - colors in digital and print must be consistent.

Color consistency in digital and print.
MasterCard—use of color.

[/caption]And ensuring consistency can pose a challenge since there are two different ways of seeing colors:

  • Emission - the object emits light e.g. LED displays
  • Reflection - the object reflects light e.g. painted surfaces

In digital world we use RGB (additive theory) but in print we use CMYK system (subtractive theory).

What is the difference between RGB and CMYK colors?

To put it simply:Additive colors are colors which are "pure", i.e. colors add up to form white light.

A RED light looks RED because it emits RED light.

On the other hand, subtractive colors are "impure".

You perceive RED pigment to be RED because it reflects RED light and absorbs everything except RED light falling on it.

Additive vs. Subtractive colors.

They make look the same on the wheel (red is just red), but translating the color (e.g. by using a color picker) from RGB to CMYK and vice versa can make the colors look different.

The spectrums of RGB and CMYK are slightly different and therefore a vibrant color on your computer's monitor (RGB) may look bleached in print (CMYK).

Besides CMYK and RGB we also use Pantone Colour Palettes which allows to have the same color in both digital and print.

RGB Color (Red, Green, Blue) is used on the web in the form of HEX value (web colors) that looks looks something like this #00adef (Ebaqdesign's brand color).

There so much more that can be said about colors...If you want to learn more, I would definitely recommend the book The Designer's Dictionary of Color by Sean Adams that I found recently in Barnes&Noble.

The Designer's Dictionary of Color
The Designer's Dictionary of Color by Sean Adams

But I hope this article brought you some light to the subject of color and its importance when it comes to brand identity design.

Let me know what you think in the comments below.and share this article on social media.

Also check out my tutorials on how to design a logo, then how to present logo concepts and finally how to deliver a logo package to your clients.

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